Many of us worry about being selfish. We’ve been brought up with the notion that taking care of others is more important then taking care of ourselves. After all, we get external validation when we’re seen to put others — our employer or maybe an important cause — before ourselves. Indeed, in Christian cultures, humility is a virtue — the antithesis of the deadliest sin of all the seven deadly sins: pride, which is putting one’s own desires, urges, wants, and whims before the welfare of other people. And in many families, taking care of parents and the elderly is deemed a duty and an in some cultures, an honour.
So perhaps it is not surprising that we grow up putting others’ needs first at the expense of our own well-being. I’ve a client who recently did an 80-hour week to ‘help someone out’, and this in the knowledge that he’d recently been diagnosed with stress-related illness related to overworking. He was always putting others first, running around in a suit of armour as the noble knight, trying to save and please others, while ignoring his own needs.
Happiness, joy & altruism
In his recent best-selling book, The Second Mountain, David Brooks writes about how we can move beyond happiness, which is our primary aim when we strive for material wealth and status in our early careers and lives, which he sees as a fundamentally self-centric emotion, to finding joy through a moral cause that involves being deeply committing to an altruistic life and serving our community, family, and a vocation. What Brooks doesn’t explore is the affects of blind service without effective self care.
People with high self esteem and self confidence value themselves in equal measure to others
Yet people with high self-esteem and self confidence value themselves as much as others and recognize that unless they take care of themselves, they’ll diminish the contribution they make to others. As I say to clients who are always trying to please others: how an earth can you look after other people, if you don’t care for yourself?
Caring for yourself and caring for others need not be mutually exclusive — you can do both without one being sacrificed in the name of the other.
I like this notion of what’s called enlightened self-interest, which is when we enhance another’s quality of life, it can enhance our own quality of life to a similar degree. To get this balance it can be as simple as having an altruistic project or hobby to make you feel you’re contributing.
This is all different to very selfishness, because selfish people put their own wants and needs first to the exclusion and harm of others.
What does good self care look like? The top 5 self care behaviours
So what does effective self-care look like. When you are undertaking self-care you behave in the following ways:
1. You take full responsibility for your own happiness and well-being
You don’t try to get your needs met by activities, things or others as this gives away your ability to control your outcomes and you end up in a passive place, at the mercy of outside influences. Instead, you build the skills and attitude to take care of your own physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual self care. This doesn’t mean you don’t turn to others for help, but it’s help on your terms.
2. You’re assertive with others
You say no firmly and confidently when you see things that are going to be negativity stressful to yourself or not in your best interests.
3. You treat yourself as you would a close friend
I think we’re often our harshest critic. It’s worth bearing in mind that if we spoke to our friends the way we do to ourselves, we’d soon have none left. So take care of your feelings and give yourself the time and space you need.
4. You’re willing to ask for what you want, even though you might not get it
You know that your voice, your opinion and your needs matter. People with high self esteem and self confidence know that their needs matter, and they’ve the confidence to ask for what they want — even if they don’t get it.
5. You orientate your life around your values to develop intrinsic motivation
You check in with yourselves before you make decisions to make sure that the action serves your sense of self, sense of purpose and your own intrinsic values (intrinsic or ‘identified’ values are the ones you choose, rather than extrinsic or ‘introjected’ values, which are the one our families pass down to us and we feel we ought to, should and must comply with, albeit unconsciously).
It may all sounds very self-focused and it is. The funny thing is that the more you take care of yourself, the more you know you are enough, the more you love yourself, the easier you are to be around, the more people gravitate towards you, and the more you naturally get done.
Taking meaningful action to build your self esteem & self confidence
Research has shown that to build your self-esteem and self confidence requires not only changing the way you think and act towards about yourself but also getting out there and do things to engage in personally meaningful projects for which you can be justifiably proud. This leads to a growth in self-assurance, which in turn triggers further achievement. It’s an upwards spiral.
In coaching there’s the be-do-have model. We need to be a person who values ourselves first and foremost, then we need to use this newfound self-worth to do good in the world and this gives us a sense of achievement. When you do start to look after yourself, then you can start to look after others in a much more effective way.
How to Build Unbreakable Confidence
Self care is a module in my online training course, How to Build Unbreakable Confidence, a 10 module course that uses personal case studies, research and exercises from the fields of positive psychology, cognitive therapy, person-centred therapy, and neuroscience to build your self esteem and self confidence.
As well as access to the online videos, you get a 49 page course workbook 49 page course workbook pdf that which includes extra tips, exercises & subject area research, you can download the courses as audios to listen while in your car, and free tutor support.
Take care of yourself!